Thursday, December 19, 2013

Glimpses of The Father's Delight

Being a dad is one of the greatest things ever! I get to understand, maybe, just a glimpse of the heart of God and His love through my relationship with my girls. One story in particular, to me, points out how Christ-followers can melt the heart of God.

This fall we were at the grocery store as a family. My wife, went in to get a few groceries and I stayed in the car with the girls rather than wake the baby up, unbuckle them, and cart them inside. The baby, was asleep and our oldest and I were listening to the radio. I reached back and started tickling her little foot. And then it happened. From the back seat in a sweet little girl voice, "I like you". My daddy heart heard those words completely unprompted from my little girl and I about turned into a puddle in my seat. All I could reply was something lame like, "I like you too Annabelle."

That three word sentence from my little girl and my response to it clued me into something that I easily forget. Just like me, my Heavenly Father, has a heart that is soft towards His children. I think we have the ability, because of Christ, to melt the heart of God. An unprompted three-word sentence expressing our sincere gratitude and love may have a similar impact on our God as my daughter's did to me. So why do I hold back my adoration and praise? Why don't I tell Him more often that "I like you". Annabelle's speech was just a spontaneous response to my action of reaching back and touching her foot. But it was so much more than that too. 

It was in response to the totality of my relationship with her. So often I get wrapped up in the good and pleasant things that are in my life that I can forget the One who gave them to me. Romans 11:36 says, "For from him and through him and to him are all things." All things, the small little things like a car, house, and job can so often cloud my vision that I forget about the overall totality of my relationship with Him. Those things are good, but they aren't primary. He is primary. So I want to say more, "I like you Father." You bring my heart joy. I am so thankful to be Your child and that You love me.

Friday, October 4, 2013

A Good Morning Reminder

Good morning my precious child.

While you were sleeping I watched over you. I sustained your brain, heart, and lungs. I prevented storms or disasters or violence from troubling you. I refreshed you for the good works that I have for you in the next few hours. But that wasn't all. I was also quite busy working with your brothers and sisters around the world. You see while you were sleeping there were millions and millions of my children going about their days. I was with each of them in small and large ways and just as I have special things for you to do, so did I for them. There were millions of others who like you were sleeping. I was watching over them too. 

But I wasn't the only one at work. While you were sleeping your enemy, Satan, was holding strategy meetings. He was examining your life for weaknesses, plotting temptations and hatching trials especially aimed at your perceived weaknesses. He and his henchman were actively opposing the work that I am doing all around the world in the lives of those millions of brothers and sisters. He was executing pre-planned missions of destruction, wreaking havoc and bringing death and despair.  Night is often, but not always, when he does his best work. He had his hands in abuses, thefts, over-doses, rapes, murders and all things destructive.

But while you were sleeping I was still working doing the slowly and steadily building my Church throughout the world. Sometimes it is fast, but often it is slow and unnoticed. You see I have a great plan for restoring the brokenness of this world that was introduced by Satan. He wants to steal, kill, and destroy, but I am bringing healing and life in the midst of pain and suffering. I do this work by the power of my Spirit working in the lives of my people. Most often it is through a verse or a portion of my Word that gets into my child's life. They decide that it is to be trusted. They begin to let it sink down inside of them and change their hearts and then their attitudes and then their actions. Let me tell you it is a beautiful thing to behold; one of my favorite things to watch. 

That's what I want for you today. I want for you to know more and more that I am who I say I am in my Word. I want you to trust even the small actions of your life to what I say rather than what makes sense to you or someone else. I want this for you because I love you, because I know that this is the only way you will become all that I intended for you to be. I want you to know that today may be hard. But even if that is the case, I will always be here watching over you. What I ultimately desire for you is your good. Even though it might not feel like it today. I want for you to know that the day before you is not wasted, no matter what you may think or feel. It has great purpose and meaning because I prepared it for you and you for it.

So wake up my child. Wake up and head out into the day that I created. There will be suprises for sure. There will be joys and difficulties, happiness and frustration, elation and disappointment. As you wake up know that your life is an integral part of my plan for restoring the brokenness of this world. Your brothers and sisters around the world have been walking with me, but now they are tired and headed for bed. It's your turn to step into all that I have for you today. I love you, am with you, and know you can do it.

Love always,


Friday, September 27, 2013

Book Review: Finally Free: Fighting for Purity with the Power of Grace

In Finally Free: Fighting for Purity with the Power of Grace, Heath Lambert lays out a number of practical steps for people struggling with pornography. There are nine chapters which give eight methods by which a person can battle the desire to view pornography. Eight methods could be overwhelming, but Lambert does an excellent job of showing how each method is rooted in the grace and empowerment of God. This is not a book that leaves you feeling that in order to be free you have to check these eight boxes, rather it leaves you sensing the deep need to allocate God's grace to every area of your life. In this way it not only applies to a struggle with pornography, but is also a primer on the Christian life in general. The theology and practices Lambert outlines are transferable to any area of struggle, not just pornography.

As a man who has struggled with lust and pornography for almost twenty years, this is the first book on the topic of pornography that I finished with my focus on Jesus rather than on pornography. Lambert again and again shows that freedom from pornography is based on and flows out of the grace of God. Here are a few quotes that exemplify the grace-emphasis of the book.

"Jesus loves to cleanse those who love to look at pornography, and he loves to give them power to change. Our sinfulness does not get the final word. Instead, Jesus justifies, washes, and sanctifies us. Our only hope is in a risen Savior who has the power to bring us out of the pit of pornography. This book is a guide to the exciting process Jesus uses to do this work." (location 86)

"God's powerful transforming grace can give you a pure heart, and you can subdue your desires for pornography." (location 194)

"When you deny your sin, you deny yourself access to God's grace. When you admit your sin to God, you access his grace." (location 214)

"You will never be free from pornography until you acknowledge that in order to change you need the help of God through brothers and sisters in Christ." (location 467)

"When you receive God's grace to make your confession to others, then you will receive God's grace, which flows from that confession. Confession is bookended with grace." (location 966)

"In the end, you can't get to Jesus without the power that Jesus gives. When Jesus calls you to a relationship with himself, he knows he is calling you to do something you can't do on your own. That's why he gives his forgiving and transforming grace. If your heart is cold toward Christ, ask him for forgiveness. Ask him for his power to change. Ask him to fill you with a burning desire to know him and to love him more than anything or anyone else. The Christ who calls you to relationship with him will be pleased with your dependence and will grant your request made in faith." (location 1688)

In addition to his overriding commitment to God's grace as the source and power for defeating pornography, Lambert provides pertinent and poignant examples from his own life and ministry that drive home his points in unforgettable ways. These stories show that his ideas are Biblically sound, and also make a real-life difference. I have read numerous books on the topic of pornography through the years. For me as a pastor, Finally Free has gone straight to the top of my list of books to recommend for those struggling with pornography.